What to watch for today
US swings into a deficit. The US Treasury will announce monthly budget figures that are expected to show a $131 billion deficit for May, after a $106.9 billion surplus in April.
Russia and Ukraine try again. Leaders meet for a third day of talks to resolve a gas dispute. Russia did not cut off Ukraine’s gas supply after a deadline ended Tuesday, suggesting there may be hope for a settlement.
The Blackwater trial begins. Seven years after the killing of 14 Iraqi civilians in Baghdad, former employees of the US security contractor Blackwater face prosecutors.
London cabbies protest Uber. Up to 10,000 taxi drivers will gather in central London to protest against ride-sharing and car-service apps like Uber and Kabbee.
US Republicans regroup. Traditional conservatives in the GOP just got a wake-up call, after house majority leader Eric Cantor lost his bid for reelection to Tea Party hero David Brat in Tuesday’s Virginia Republican primary.
Brazil scrambles to get ready. The FIFA World Cup starts tomorrow and half a million guests are expected, but stadiums and airports are unfinished.
While you were sleeping
Alibaba launched a US consumer store… “11 Main” will operate like Alibaba’s Chinese site TMall (paywall), in which merchants set up their own virtual store and handle everything from selling to shipping while Alibaba’s Alipay handles the payments.
…And conducted the biggest merger in Chinese internet history. Alibaba Group Holdings bought the remaining one-third of Chinese mobile browser UCWeb that it didn’t already own. The purchase highlights mobile internet’s importance in China—competitor Tencent’s mobile messaging service WeChat is also used for payments, cab services, and a host of location-based services.
Inditex outperformed. The largest apparel retailer in the world—the owner of Zara, Massimo Dutti, and others—reported first-quarter net income of €406 million ($549 million), well over the €391.2 million analysts expected. The company will split its stock following the positive results.
China sent six warships to protect its oil rig. The warships arrived to protect a Chinese oil rig while it was moved from one area of the South China Sea claimed by both Vietnam and China to another, according to Vietnamese state media. The warships joined China’s 38 coastguard vessels, 13 cargo ships, and 19 tugboats around the rig.
Lufthansa delivered a profit warning. The German airline said it expects an operating profit of €1 billion ($1.35 billion) for 2014—revised down from its previous target of €1.3-1.5 billion. Weaker revenues from passenger and freight operations also led the airline to reduce its outlook for 2015.
The World Bank lowered its growth forecast. The bank’s twice-yearly global growth estimate was trimmed down due to events in Ukraine and an unusually cold start to the year in the US. The World Bank predicted the world’s economy will grow just 2.8% this year, down from a 3.2% forecast in January.
Quartz obsession interlude
Leo Mirani on how the “internet of things” is changing the nature of the chip industry. “[C]hip-makers are paying greater attention to new markets and older designs. The new markets are in devices that stray beyond computers, phones and tablets: a new range of sensors, wearables, and smart objects that are becoming a part of the ‘internet of things,’ as well as older machines that are increasing their computing power, such as cars.” Read more here.
Matters of debate
It’s time to get rid of Sepp Blatter. The FIFA head runs soccer’s governing body like a dictatorship and has done too little to fight corruption.
We are losing the war on terror. Attacks on Karachi and Mosul prove that.
Halophytes are the crop of the future. We should be cultivating salt-water plants as an environmentally-friendly source of biofuels, animal feed, and chemicals.
Sweden’s idyllic image is a facade. There is seething racism underneath that perfect picture.
McDonald’s mascots are awful. Of course the company is losing sales—just look at their latest mascot, “Happy.”
GM is letting itself off too lightly. The report it commissioned on its ignition-switch failures absolves senior management of what was clearly an institutional cover-up.
Electric-car owners shouldn’t be so smug. Their cars run off electricity mainly from fossil fuels, and encourage massive road-building.
The Mistral ship sale shows the EU is shipwrecked. That Russia could buy highly advanced warships from France despite its meddling in Ukraine proves how divided Western nations are.
Silence at work is worse than bullying. Ignoring a colleague can make them feel worse than if they received negative comments.
London’s “death cafes” are going global. Patrons turn up, meet strangers, and talk about death.
The earth is 60 million years older than we thought. An analysis of gases sealed in ancient quartz reveals previous estimates were slightly off.
65% of World Cup players are based outside their home countries. And there are four countries that have only one player who suits up for a local team.
There are 31 countries whose borders Google Maps might not show you. Territorial disputes mean it displays different countries’ outlines in different ways.
Beer cans are making a comeback. Fancy craft beer used to only come in glass bottles, but that’s beginning to change.
So much Arctic ice has melted that we need a new atlas. But deciding what ice it should show isn’t a straightforward matter.